- Flickr / Roman Boed
By now, everyone knows that college is expensive. For the school year starting in 2015, the most expensive college in the US charged over $67,000 for tuition, fees, and room and board.
But not all college costs are clearly outlined.
Below, members of the Business Insider and Tech Insider staff share what they wish they had known about money when it came time to get their finances in order and apply to college, from taking late-night pizza orders into account to remembering that grad school could be on the horizon.
- Flickr / Wonderlane
You aren’t guaranteed a high salary when you graduate, so factor that into the amount of loans you take.
“I wish I understood how impossible it is to pay loans back. I wish I knew how little I’d actually make out of college and therefore how hard it would be to start a life with the loan debt.”
You aren’t obligated to take student loans.
“I wish I’d known that just because you’re being offered student loans as part of a financial aid package, it doesn’t mean you have to take them.”
- Flickr / Vince Smith
If you do take loans, there is help available to manage them.
“I wish I had known that the office of financial aid at my university offered personalized loan counseling, especially near graduation. Talking to someone trained (and excited) to help students finance their debt is way easier and just an overall nicer experience than calling a hotline, usually during work hours, and waiting 30 minutes to talk to an anonymous voice.
“University counselors can also often help you package your debt into one or two lump payments, which makes paying the bills that much easier later.”
Anyone can apply for scholarships.
“I wish I’d applied for more scholarships.”
- Flickr / James Loesch
Just because you don’t get scholarships today doesn’t mean you won’t in the future.
“I had pretty bad grades my senior year of high school but kicked it into gear freshman year of college and started getting a 3.75 or higher GPA.
“It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I went to a counselor, who took one look at my transcript and said I was eligible for a scholarship. So scholarships aren’t just rewards for high-school grades; they can come from the work you put into college, too!”
Any scholarships, however, may affect your financial aid.
“I wish I knew my university would decrease my financial aid every time I got a scholarship. Their financial aid covered ‘full need,’ but getting a scholarship meant my ‘need’ was reduced.”
- Flickr / COD Newsroom
If you intend to take a work-study job, it’s smart to have a plan for how to use that money.
“I wish I’d saved money from my work-study jobs instead of spending it on takeout and booze.”
Ask your parents for help learning to manage your money before you leave home.
“Learning to keep a budget, and actually sticking to it, is something important that many people initially deal with most heavily when they enter college – and is something that will be useful for the rest of their life.
“It’s something that doesn’t take too much time or keep-up if you stay on it, but if you don’t do it at all, then it can really end up hurting you (and potentially keep you from having money to spend where/when you want!).”
- Via Flickr
Expect to need more money than the costs of tuition and room and board.
“I wish I had known there are a lot of expenses you don’t think to account for, even after tuition/housing/meal plan/etc. Even if you take full advantage of your meal plan, there’s still going to be late-night pizza orders or off-campus birthday dinners.
“A lot of clubs have dues as well; I remember being surprised at the $60 fee for swim team, but it makes sense we’d need a budget to pay for pool time, meet fees, and T-shirts.
“My school also had a great concert board, so there were always shows and events going on that required tickets.
“These are by no means huge expenses and can easily be budgeted/managed, but I remember slipping into a mindset that once all these major costs were out of the way (tuition, books, dorm) that college was taken care of. Life lesson: There are always hidden costs.”
Textbooks may cost more than you think.
“A semester’s worth of textbooks could equate a month of rent (well, in the Midwest).”
- Flickr / kellinahandbasket
Paying for a meal plan doesn’t mean all of your meals will be covered.
“You are going to want to go out to eat more because it’s social, you don’t have the space in your living situation, and/or you simply don’t have the time.
“And even if you think about being more conscious of cooking at home, it won’t happen. Maybe your senior year … maybe.
“Additionally, meal plans and dining halls, at least in my situation, sucked.
“Especially as a freshman, you go in counting on the meal plan/dining hall (which you had to pay for as a freshman), then you not only end up spending money on the meal plan but on eating out/groceries because you can’t eat the dining-hall food.”
– Sam Rega
If you don’t have to live on campus your first year, it might be cheaper to move off-site.
“I wish I had looked at the prices of off-campus apartments before choosing to live on campus.”
- Flickr / Luiz Gadelha Jr.
But if your school is in a prohibitively expensive area, you won’t have that option.
“I wish I’d looked harder for a good school that wasn’t in a high-rent neighborhood/city.”
In many cases, you don’t have to spend four years getting your degree.
“I wish I’d known that time is money. If I had planned properly, I could have graduated in three years instead of four, saved myself thousands of dollars, and had an extra year of on-the-job experience.”
- Flickr / Kevin Dooley
College isn’t always the end of your education. You might go to graduate school – and that will cost money, too.
“I wish I’d known I’d go to an expensive graduate school, so I would have chosen a cheaper college.”